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Old 04-14-2017, 09:14 AM   #41 (permalink)
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For my initial look at the animation from Germany I want to try to break the article up into two sections: the first will be actual German animation while the second will be Nazi propaganda and films and shorts produced under the Hitler regime. While these are of course also German, I believe the dividing line needs to be made, as many of the animators and directors (not all, but many) were forced to bow down to the Nazi party and work for their glory only, resulting in works that may appear stunted and devoid of creativity, soulless or otherwise bland, and I think it's important that these examples are looked at in the proper context.

From the early days, on really into the Second World War, the only avenue open to any German animator was to make shorts for advertising, or experimental ones which would struggle to find both funding and an audience. The very first animated film produced in Germany however appeared before the man who would try to conquer the world had even enlisted in the German Army to fight World War One. Friedrich Konrad Guido Seeber created this clever little stop-motion three-minute film in 1910 with just matches, and though it seems a little simple today, it was probably ground-breaking back then. I mean, we're talking over a hundred years ago now.

He came to the notice of Paul Wegener, who in 1915 spoke of the kind of advances in animated film techniques that Walt Disney would pioneer more than twenty years later. In a lecture in Berlin he said “I think that film as art should be based – as in the case of music – on tones, on rhythm. In these changeable planes, events unroll which are partly identified with natural pattern, yet partly beyond real lines and forms.” It would be another twenty-five years before a young American would put this into practice with his innovative Fantasia, and Wegener's vision would be seen to be correct. Amazingly enough, a young Lotte Reiniger was in the audience, and Wegener's speech had a powerful effect upon her, as we shall see.

One man to recognise early the potential of cinema advertising was Julius Pinschewer, who made a point of copyrighting the animations he did for cinemas. If your animation was used in an advert then you were sure to get financed by the company that was using it, and at one time or another nearly every important German animator worked for or with Pinschewer, who left Germany in 1933, just before the storm broke.

We've already spoken of Lotte Reiniger and her Prinzen Achmed, and she was indeed believed to be one of the prime movers in German animation, but even the format she used for that movie was largely thanks to another man, who would avoid the horrors of Nazi Germany by taking American patronage. He invented a machine called a wax slicer, allowing him to film through cross-sections of moulded wax and clay, and it was this that was used in Reiniger's movie. But Oskar Fischinger had talents that went beyond the building of machines for animation purposes, and his most famous work is 1938's An Optical Poem, in which he suspended hundreds of tiny pieces of coloured paper on invisible wires, filmed them in stop motion and synchronised them to the tune of Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody. The whole thing ran for just over seven minutes, an exercise in abstract animation.

Much of the other work Fischinger concentrated on was commercials, including this one for a cigarette company called Muratti Greft Ein before he was courted by Hollywood and ended up working (though not getting credit for) with Disney on both Snow White and Pinocchio.


Walter Ruttman, an early inspiration to Fischinger, and to whom he licenced his wax slicer, also worked in abstract art, utilising sound and colour and, like his protege, synchronising his animation to music, as in one of his Opuses, shown below. However he is best remembered for his collaboration with Leni Riefenstahl on the Nazi propaganda film "Triumph des Willens" (Triumph of the Will), still accepted as one of the best documentaries ever made, even if its central message was abhorrent.


Lotte Reiniger

Perhaps Germany's greatest animator, we have already come across Reiniger as she produced the first feature-length animated film almost ten years before Disney's game-changer, but she also created a lot of shorter animations. Her first real effort was in 1918, when she animated wooden rats for the film "Der Rattenfänger von Hameln" (The Pied Piper of Hamelin) which brought her to the attention of, and obtained for her enrolment in, the Institute for Cultural Research, where she would meet artists such as Bertolt Brecht and Berthold Bartosch, already mentioned, and the man she would marry and work with, Carl Koch. She quickly began to make herself known in the world of animation, her first proper film, "Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens" (The Ornament of the Enamoured Heart) actually selling out in the USA in 1919, and found herself working with the previously-mentioned Oskar Fischinger and Walter Ruttman, who with some other became the heart of German animators.

When she was approached to film Prinzen Achmed she faced stiff opposition: up till then, animation were basically cartoons, meant to make people laugh, and short usually too. This would be an entirely different proposition, and everyone she approached in her country turned away horrified from the very idea, damning the project to failure before it had even started. But once she secured financing and the film premiered in Paris, it became a huge hit, and is now considered one of the most important of the early animated films, a true triumph. Reiniger also pioneered the very first https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiplane_camera, or its ancestor at any rate, and she went on to make many animated features, including "Doktor Dolittle und seine Tiere"(Doctor Dolittle*and his Animals), 1928.

Like her contemporary, Fischinger, Reiniger found the situation in Germany as the Nazis rose to power too untenable, and she fled the country, but unlike him she was unable to go to America, not having been invited there, and in fact no country would give her and her husband permanent sanctuary, necessitating their moving from country to country as temporary visas ran out, over a period of more than ten years, which in fact led up almost to the end of World War II, but for a year or more she had to work under Hitler's rule and make propaganda films for his party. Eventually she would make it to London, but not for another five years.

Meanwhile, Hungarian-born George Pal actually came from his native country to work in Germany, having set up a company to produce advertising films, and he became quite famous there until the Nazis came to power and he became another forced to flee Germany. He would later work on such seminal science-fiction films as The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, making his name in the USA as a producer. Before that though, in 1940 he became famous for the Puppetoons series, which featured, oddly enough, puppets. In fact, he won an honorary Oscar in 1943.

Other German animators working prior to the outbreak of the war included Alexander Gumitsch, who used clay figures in a time long before what became known as claymation, and Alexander von Gontscharoff-Mussalewsky, who used plastic figures, but unfortunately his animations tended to contain racial stereotypes, such as “a stupid negro”; Richard Groschopp, whose short "Die Wundersamen Abenteur des kleinen Mutz (A Boy's rocket flight to Planet X)" won the runner-up prize at the Interntational Amateur Film Festival in London in 1935, and the follow-up to which was included on a Nazi propaganda film, earning it much more acclaim and widespread distribution.

The search for the German answer to Mickey Mouse: Elves, bunnies and frogs, oh my!

In 1935 UFA, the largest and most successful animation company in Germany (their equivalent, basically, of Disney in Germany, commissioned cartoonist Otto Waffenschmidt to create a new animated cartoon character, and he settled on an elf from German folk tales, called Tilo Voss. However Waffenschmidt had not the experience of comic books and newspaper strips that were available in the USA, and his initial effort was rejected for not having “enough gags”. Unexpectedly spiralling running costs then added to their problems and in the end the project was shelved, leaving the task of creating a German cartoon character to Ultra Film in 1937. However their music director, Herr Julius Kopsch, who had been asked to create a score for the film, which was to be entitled "Die drei getreuen Haschen (The Three Faithful Bunnies)" did not seem to like bunnies, and wanted to to use dogs in the film instead, and the project stalled. Finally, in desperation UFA turned to an animation studio in Paris, who promised to give them what they wanted, but shortly afterwards Snow White hit, and the rules of the game were forever changed.

The man who wrought that change upon the world visited Germany himself in 1935, though who Disney met with there is unclear, and no documents pertaining to the visit survive, but interestingly enough, Snow White became the only American movie of any kind to be passed by the German censors under Hitler's regime. Make of that what you will. Also telling is a report from a German trade paper which described Josef Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda guru, as “Disney's No. 1 fan”. In 1937 the former mayor of Graudenz, Max Winkler, who had become a big wheel in German cinema, was promoted to head of the German film industry by Goebbels, though here I find something of a problem is cropping up. In some accounts of animation under the Hitler regime there appear to be disparities, even conflicts. One says that the Nazis viewed animation as a “degenerate art” while another cites Hitler's love of Mickey Mouse and Snow White. The abovementioned Winkler is spoken of in Animation Under the Swastika but not even referred to in A History of World Animation, even in the section which specifically deals with Nazi Germany. I suppose reliable records from that time might be harder to verify than expected.

Deutche Zeichenfilm GmbH (The German Animation Company), set up by Hitler and Goebbels in 1941, found its base changing as the Allies continually bombed Germany, eventually situating itself right beside Dachau. Art Director at the time, Gerhard Fieber, would later recall ”During the working hours you were busy with trickfilm figures, at the same time you could see prisoners on the street who were harnessed in front of wagons as replacements for horses. Nevertheless you had to draw funny figures – it was awful.” I'm sure it was; makes you wonder why he chose to relocate to that particular area. Despite the studio being unsuccessful, Goebbels directed DZG to create a ten-minute animation called "Hochzeit im korallenmeer (Wedding in the Coral Sea)" which was actually produced in Prague, and here again we have a problem: as Nazi Germany was occupying most of Europe from 1940 to 1944, any Nazi animation really has to be credited, as it were, to them. I don't really see any other way to do it, as I doubt, for instance, Czech animators today would wish to be associated with a Nazi-made film, though I may be wrong. I'm erring on the side of caution, anyway, and lumping them all together, as the book title I mentioned earlier says, under the Swastika.

One of the most famous Nazi animations is "Der Schneeman (The Snowman)" – no, not that one, obviously! Created in 1944 by Hans Fischerkoesen, it does actually somewhat follow the general storyline of the later and more famous Raymond Briggs' cartoon, with a snowman yearning to see summer but finding it makes him melt. Uncharacteristically for a Nazi cartoon, it is quite light-hearted and really contains no overt political or propagandist messages, nor did his next, "Verwitterte melodie (The Dilapidated Melody)" which features a bee who finds a gramaphone in a field and uses his stinger as a stylus to play a record, very Disneylike and perhaps even foreshadowing the kind of thing Fred Hanna and Joseph Barbera would do twenty years later on The Flintstones. His third, and final animation however, "Das Dumme Ganslein (The Silly Goose)" is an out-and-out piece of propaganda and has very clear anti-semite tones.

An anti-Nazi, Heinz Tischmeyer worked with George Pal in Berlin before fleeing Germany in 1937 but unable to stay in Switzerland he was forced to return to the Fatherland, where he worked on "Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten (The Town Musicians of Bremen)", based on the Brothers Grimm fairytale, and "Von Baumelein, das andere Blatter gewollt (The Little Tree that wanted different leaves)" which shows again, anti-semite leanings, though considering his stance on the Nazis we can assume this was forced upon him. Later he was recruited to work at DZG.

Other important Nazi-era animations include Der Storenfried, 1940, which places a fox as the danger to a family of hares and utilises wasps, representing the Luftwaffe, to come to their rescue. Produced by Hans Held (no, seriously: that's his name) it's a very dismal effort, given that this is three years after Snow White: it's in black and white, there's much reuse of the same scene; the only decent thing really about it is the clever idea of using the wasps as divebombers and the formation flying scene. Other than that, it's not a patch on Disney or even any of the earlier cartoons that were coming out of the USA around that time. There's also one from 1943, produced in Nazi-occupied Holland, based on the French tale of Reynard the Fox, the original of which we discussed earlier in the section on French animation.

Van den vos reynarede though, by Egbert van Putten, takes as its yardstick the anti-semitic version of the tale written by Dutch-Belgian Robert van Genechten, and uses a rhinoceros name Joducus (an obvious reference to the character being a Jew) who tries to create a socialist republic and is chased away, along with his fellow rhinos, by the dashing Reynard. A totally skewed vision of socialism is presented, wherein the Nazi obssession with racial purity is espoused: Joducus declares that all animals may intermarry and there will be no pure race anymore. To be fair, compared to Hans Held's cartoon three years earlier, this shows a marked improvement. For a start, it's in colour, and the colours (though the one shown below has been restored from archive footage) seems quite vibrant. The sound is better (again, I accept this may have been repaired relatively recently) and the clever (though chillingly appropriate) scenes at the end, where the rhinos are drowned in the lake and their ghostly, winged spirits ascend to Heaven (although you would wonder, if they're degenerate Jews, why they're not going down to Hell?) as celestial music plays, may have been the first usage of this later common trope in animation.

Finally there's Vichy France (Occupied France, for those of you too young to know or too lazy or disinterested to look it up) which in 1944 somehow managed to make this Disney parody, using Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Popeye (?) and Donald Duck, to attack France in American bombers. From what I can make out of it, there's a family at the centre of it who welcome the liberation of France (I guess to the Vichy government they would be seen as traitors) and who are rather unlucky when a US bomb hits their house, killing them all. I must point out that whoever does the voice for Popeye sounds just like Krusty the Klown. Check it out!
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Old 04-14-2017, 12:02 PM   #42 (permalink)
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Animation in Germany may have been somewhat stifled with the rise of the Nazis and therefore the imprisonment, execution or flight to exile of some of the most creative minds in the Reich, but Spain had its very own Civil War, which raged from 1936 to 1939, and you would wonder how, already devastated by three years of bloodshed, Spanish animators could flourish, or even survive, in such a climate, yet they did.

Joaquin Xaudaro, who had in 1917 produced the first Spanish animation Jim Trot's Adventures, created Un drama en la costa in 1933 just prior to his death, having created the previous year SEDA, the Societe Espanola de Dibujos Animados, an art collective which was responsible for four animated films in all, one of which being the abovementioned. The year of Xaudaro's death also saw the release of K-Hito (born Ricardo Garcia Lopez)'s "El Rata Primera" while the next year he created Francisca la Mujer Fatal. The final film produced at SEDA was Francisco Lopez Rubio's Seranata, also in 1934. This, sadly, means that SEDA survived for a mere two years, and just as sadly, none of the animations mentioned above seem to have survived to this day.

The demise of Xaudro's dream however did not stop the rise of Spanish animation, and in 1935 Jose Martinez Romano and the caricature artist known only as Menda released Una de abono and the western short, Buffalo Full. Again, YouTube searches yield nothing. Puppets were then used in an animation directed by movie director Adolfo Aznar, for "Pipo y Pipa en busca de Colcin" (you guessed it: zero results!) followed by Feliciano Perez and Arturo Beringola's El intrepido Raul.

The Edad Dorada

Anyone with most passing acquaintance with or knowledge of the Spanish language will know that the legendary city of El Dorado means “city of gold”, and the period just after the end of the Spanish Civil War, from the 1940s, was nicknamed El Edad Dorada, “the golden age”, as it became the pinnacle of early Spanish animation. Choosing to side with neither power in World War II, the newly-established dictator General Franco needed nationalist expression in film and animation, and so he became something of a patron of the arts – as long as they reflected traditional (approved) Spanish values and ideals, and praised his new government. However it turned out to be not the capital, Madrid, which would be the centre of the great birthplace of Spanish animation, but Barcelona.

The Reverse Disney Principle

Whereas in the USA Walt Disney worked with his animators – and had been one himself, a cartoonist first, working for another studio before he set his own up, as we saw earlier – the Spanish idea, at least in Barcelona, was for entrepreneurs to engage and employ artists and animators, and they would deal with the government offices to get them contracts and keep the finances in order. Two of the main movers in this field were Jaume Baguna and Alejandro Fernandez de la Reguera, the former of which set up Hispano Grafic Films in 1939. Their first effort was a seven-episode series based on a comic character, Juanito Milhombres, while de la Reguera founded Dibsono Films, which released SOS Doctor Marabu in 1940. It garnered praise as “one of the most remarkable, fluid and brilliant films of its time”, and of course, it's nowhere to be found. Interestingly, it appears that the Spanish may have been the first to have a proper antihero in one of their animations, this being the crotchety old Don Cleque, a bald, sickly, ugly man, and no, I can't find a single instance of him on YouTube either.

In 1942 the two great studios merged, becoming Dibujos Animados Chamartin, which based itself in the historic surroundings of Antonio Gaudi's Paseo de Gracia and continued the adventures of sad old Don Cleque, while also adding an anthropomorphic bull (well, this was Spain!) called Civilon, both of whom were given an entire series, as was Garabatos, a caricature show which heaped scorn on El Presidente's enemies. DAC lasted till 1945 only, when the studios were to be moved to Madrid, and the company dissolved when Jaume Baguna quit.

That same year though, Arturo Moreno got the chance to make Spain's first full-length animated feature movie, thanks to an offer from animation studio Balet y Blay, and Garbancito de la Mancha would also be the first Spanish cartoon to be produced in colour. Amazingly, there actually is a clip of this, though it literally is a clip, just over a minute long. It shows promise, certainly better than some of the German animation we recently looked at, but it's hard to form an opinion on such a short excerpt. Still, it does look as if Spanish animation was in decent shape at this time.

His next project (spoken of in "A History of World Animation" as, I quote, “boring”) was another feature-length effort, and again rather surprisingly I can find a small clip of it, which I've posted below. Reference to Max Fleischer's work and style has been made in the book regarding both movies, and I guess there are similarities. They are certainly more Fleishcher than Disney, anyway.

Los Suenos de Tay-Pi, produced by Franz Winterstein with the departure of Moreno for Venezuela, sounds a whole lot more interesting, with tuxedo-wearing monkeys and crying crocodiles, but this is where our luck runs out. It's also where the luck ran out for Balet y Blay, whose last film this turned out to be, and a total flop at that. Animators from the closed Chamartin studios produced Erase una vez, based on the Cinderella tale, and in contrast to the abovementioned it seems to have come in for some serious praise, though it was not a success when released, but again there is no video for it. Sadly, as the title translates to “once upon a time”, there are plenty of hits, but nothing close to what I'm looking for.

In Madrid, Salvador Gijon had a successful series involving a detective and a dog, which ran right up to the sixties and is perhaps the second instance of the sidekick being a dog, the first being in the French animation I featured earlier, Paul Grimault's Les Passagers de la Grand Ourse, while puppets were back in vogue for Angel Echenique and his "Ciudad de los munecos" (1945) and ex-SEDA alumnus Manuel Alonso Anino made intriguing drawings with shadows, but the shadows were too angular and pronounced “ugly”, and looked very dated. Valencia also saw its share of animators, among them Jose Maria Reyes, Carlos Rigalt and Joachin Perez Arroyo.
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Old 04-14-2017, 04:59 PM   #43 (permalink)
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Another country that struggled with fascism in the thirties and forties was of course Italy, but unlike Germany's dictator, Mussolini does not seem to have had any interest in cartoons, and so the story of Italian animation (at least, early animation and probably later too) is short and contains few names, and fewer movies. Luigi Liberio Pensuti is said to have been the only animator to have worked constantly in the country, heading up the state institution for cinematography, the Isituto Nazionale Luce in 1935. Most of his work, unsurprisingly, was propaganda for the Fascist Party, like 1941's Il dottor Churkill, which lampoons Churchill as a Jekyll and Hyde figure. As an animation it's not too bad really, with the hideously deformed Hydelike creature drinking a potion labelled “Democrazia” (anyone?) and transforming into the urbane British Prime Minister. The music even changes, from dark, ominous, sub-Hammer style horror score to a breezy, nonchalant twenties upbeat swing as Churchill transforms.

He's seen envisioning the Union Jack over all the world, and then robbing people's houses (I think; it's all in Italian obviously and a little hard to be sure) whereupon he reverts back to the Mister Hyde figure (perhaps showing his true colours? Kind of surprised the Hyde persona is not shown as a caricature of a Jew) and has to drink his “democracy” potion to again take the form of the statesman. Just as he's doing this though, an arm with a swastika on it grabs him, causing him to break the tube with the potion, and he is pursued by the Nazis in his Hyde form. He makes it to his little plane but is pursued by the Luftwaffe, which turns into a bombing raid on London, which is destroyed as the victorious Nazis fly off.

The brothers Cossio, Carlo and Vittorio, made some shorts in the thirties, including "La secchia rapita (The broken bucket)" and even a version of HG Wells's classic The Time Machine, which was released in 1937. However, as they were one of the few people experimenting with colour in Italy at the time, to say nothing of stereoscopy, the costs proved prohibitive and they abandoned their ventures. It's pretty primitive though, even if they deserve praise for trying to integrate colour into their work: most of their characters don't seem to move, or only one body part (usually the head) does at a time, and the animation itself is far from fluid, jumping all over the place where you can see clearly they used cutouts and just positioned them, filmed them, positioned them again and so on. Quite poor I feel, given the time period and the advances that were taking place half a world away.

Invited by painter Luigi Giobbe, who had made his own film in 1940, they made two more short films based on Neapolitan stories: Pulcinella e i briganti and Pulcinella et i temporale, but that seems to have been about it for the two brothers. And, indeed, Giobbe, who probably went back to painting. Ugo Siatta tried something with puppets (again with the puppets!) this time set in the Middle Ages, called Teste di legno, or Wooden Balls. Sorry. Heads. Wooden Heads.

Someone a little more eceletic was Luciano Emmer, who used frescoes and shots of a famous chapel. He created an animation called "Racconto di un affresco" (Story of a fresco) – apologies for the terrible video below: I don't know why it's shaking so badly but it's the only version I can find. Probably don't watch if you're prone to epileptic seizures, as it's very jumpy indeed.

There was also Antonio Rubino, and Nino Pagot, who like most other Italian artists and animators had to work on propaganda films in order to continue to be able to eat. Pagot created the largest animation establishment in Italy and invited his brother Toni to join him there. After the defeat and death of Mussolini, and the end of World War II, he went on to create a feature film, Lalla, picolla Lalla in 1946. Although there is only a tiny fragment of it available, it already looks far superior to anything I've seen come out of Italy, with a very Disney Alice in Wonderland/Mister Bug Goes to Town feel, at least the little I've seen. As for his other feature films, I fratelli dinamite was created by him and some other Italian animators who had just returned from a German POW camp, after Italy had switched sides in the war after 1943, and it concerns the fantasy adventures of three brothers, told in narration by their aunt to dinner guests. The animation is pretty first-class, though in fairness it was released in 1949, so by now animation had made great strides and would soon move to the new medium of television. Still, for struggling Italian animation this is right up there with the best. One of the scenes takes place in Hell – a bold move which I believe not even Disney had ... oh wait, Fantasia. Yeah, well, a move which no other animator other than Disney had attempted up to then – and it's quite well done, with children being taken from a sack by a Satan figure who is sort of a cross between a carnival barker and Santa, and zipped into various costumes of animals and other things, which then become animate.

The last major animation around this period (I realise we've stretched the timeline a lot here, but there really is not much Italian animation to fill up this section) was by Anton Gino Domeneghini, and entitled La Rosa di Bagdad, another full-length feature whose storyline borrowed liberally from Snow White, as did the design of the characters, who bear rather too close a resemblance to Disney's dwarfs than Domeneghini would perhaps have preferred. Jesus! They even have a bald one with a big nose and beard who, with a droopy cap and the beard removed, would be identical to Dopey! Though this movie did well for him in the box office, it had taken over seven years to produce, and Domeneghini was an ad-man first and last, and he promptly gave up his efforts to be an animator, returning to the world of advertising.
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Old 04-14-2017, 05:24 PM   #44 (permalink)
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unrelated but your avatar is wonderful
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Old 04-14-2017, 05:41 PM   #45 (permalink)
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unrelated but your avatar is wonderful
Thanks man. Decided to play Batty at his own game, turn my weakness into a strength. Plus it is cool.
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Old 04-15-2017, 02:03 AM   #46 (permalink)
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Thanks man. Decided to play Batty at his own game, turn my weakness into a strength. Plus it is cool.
It's still a weakness.
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It's still a weakness.
You're a weakness.
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Yes, I am every woman's weakness.
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Old 04-15-2017, 11:25 AM   #49 (permalink)
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Yes, I am every woman's weakness.
So you're a period?
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There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as ‘patriotism’, may remain a habit! But it won’t do any good, if it is not universal.
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Old 04-15-2017, 11:43 AM   #50 (permalink)
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So you're a period?
He's German, isn't he, so really more of an umlaut I guess.
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